The group of six portraits and one landscape by Llandeilo-born Carey Morris (1882-1968) appeared in the sale on September 9.
Morris’ work is scarce. This was the first time the saleroom had offered any work by the artist, while the Art Sales Index lists just a handful of results since 2002.
“It seems to me there were a lot of people in the know about him, even though his paintings don’t come on the market,” said auctioneer Ben Rogers Jones.
The artist studied at the Slade in London before heading to Cornwall where he was inspired by the Newlyn School. But a promising career was overshadowed by the Great War, which left him with lifelong health problems.
The group at Rogers Jones, which had come from the collection of a “scholarly family in west Wales”, all sold comfortably above expectations to contribute £14,000 to a bumper £377,572 sale total (the second highest ‘Welsh Sale’ total at Rogers Jones in 15 years). The group sold to a range of buyers, including private English and Welsh collectors.
Leading the group was Morris’ 4ft 11in x 3ft 2in (1.5m x 97cm) portrait of the Newlyn School pioneer Walter Langley (1852-1922). Painted in 1911, it depicts the artist standing by a picture staring pensively into the distance, holding his paintbrushes and palette.
Eager bidding pushed it to three times the top guide and it was eventually knocked down at £6000 to an English private buyer.
This appears to be a new auction record, according to the Art Sales Index, which lists the previous high at just £1500, paid in 2009 at Lawrences of Crewkerne for a view of Newlyn harbour.
Portraits in the Morris group with a strong Welsh connection also attracted plenty of interest. A portrait of King Edward VIII as a young Prince of Wales wearing his Welsh Guards Colonel uniform took £3500 against an £800-1200 estimate. Morris, who was invited to St James’ Palace to paint the Prince, produced the canvas for the 1924 Eisteddfod culture festival in Pontypool.
Other portraits drawing local interest was a 19 x 15in (49 x 39cm) oil on board of a middle-aged man holding a magnifying glass. Titled The Connoisseur, it almost certainly depicts the Plaid Cymru founder, Saunders Lewis (1893-1985), and sold for £750. A larger, Royal Academy entry titled The Welsh Fisherwoman also bettered its guide to sell to a Welsh buyer at £2000.